The compulsory drone registration process, demanded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been launched on Monday, December 21.
While drones may have turned into a hugely popular gift this holiday season, sales having been predicted to reach 1 million, federal authorities warn that it’s essential to register such gadgets before actually taking them outside for a first flight.
The regulation extends for all UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) whose weight falls between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds, and which will be used outdoors, for recreational, non-commercial purposes.
While drones have captured the public’s attention in recent months, the same procedure will also have to be followed by hobbyists that own other types of remote-operated miniature aircraft, such as toy planes or helicopters.
In order to complete registration on FAA’s official website, non-commercial UAV owners aged 13 and upwards must provide their full name, telephone number, home address and e-mail address.
A $5 fee is applicable to those who register, but if the process is completed by January 21, 2016 a full refund will be provided. However, this tax will also be collected once every 3 years, in order to cover costs associated with this filing system, whose records will be made public and easily searchable.
After all the steps have been completed, the FAA will allot a unique identification code to the customer, corresponding to all the UAVs owned by that person. Documents attesting that registration has been conducted will have to be carried by the pilot every time the aircraft is flown outside.
It is hoped that through these new rules, amateur pilots who operate small unmanned aerial systems will become more knowledgeable about the implications and risks associated with flying such vehicles.
Given the fact that those who own drones and radio-controlled aircraft will have to read and sign an Acknowledgement of Safety Guidance especially created by the FAA, they will therefore be held accountable if they fail to abide by the laws which regulate the United State’s airspace (any national air, even on privately held land).
Through this Terms of Service Agreement, it is specified that non-commercial UAV operators must keep their gadgets at an altitude of under 400 feet, and never leave them out of sight or steer them right above the heads of other individuals.
Another restriction when it comes to drone use prohibits owners from flying them over outdoor sports venues such as stadiums, and also impedes them from trying to take aerial photography during emergency situations ( explosions, fires etc.)
Moreover, it’s strictly forbidden to pilot drones and other model aircraft in locations situated at a distance of less than 5 miles from an airport, without notifying air traffic control in advance in order to receive an approval.
Another specification is that pilots should on no account fly UAVs while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, so as not to put others or even themselves at risk while being incapacitated.
All these rules are based on the National Model Aircraft Safety Code, created by the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), the U.S. regulatory body for aeromodelling aficionados.
However, representatives of this organization believe that FAA has overstepped its bounds by trying to enforce this new set of guidelines. As they point out, section 336 from the agency’s 2012 Modernization and Reform Act clearly states that the FAA isn’t allowed to introduce any restrictions regarding model aircraft.
As a result, AMA officials have urged their 175,000 members not to take part in this recently inaugurated registration process, and instead wait it out, until its February 19, 2016 deadline.
In response, the FAA has warned that those who refuse to register their flying vehicles will face civil or criminal fines reaching up to $27,500 and $250,000, respectively, and might also end up behind bars for up to 3 years.
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